What does "which waves in every raven tress, / Or softly lightens o'er her face" mean?

This quote refers to the physical appearance and grace of the woman the narrator is describing. The "raven tress" refers to her dark hair, and "softly lightens o'er her face" suggests a woman of fair complexion. This continues the contrast between light and dark that Byron has established throughout the poem.

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In Lord Byron's poem "She Walks in Beauty," the speaker is primarily discussing the physical and spiritual beauty of a woman. These lines describe some aspects of the woman's physical appearance and, within the context of the poem as a whole, illustrate the narrator's fascination with this particular woman and the grace she embodies.

Byron plays with the concepts of light and dark in this poem, showing that the woman he is describing possesses both, and that is what makes her so alluring. She is not the fair-haired beauty so often praised in love poems and odes of the time. The phrase "raven tress" suggests that the woman in question has dark hair, which would have been seen as less pure or angelic. However, the narrator believes that the combination of her dark hair and fair skin, suggested in the phrase "lightens o'er her face," makes her a perfect balance of light and dark:

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face.
Byron suggests that disrupting the balance of light and dark that the woman already possesses with a single "shade" or "ray" would "impair" her beauty and grace, the beauty that lives in her just as she is. Her physical description is a perfect reflection of her character, which the speaker likewise feels should not in any way be altered, as it is already rare, pure, and balanced.
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